Sunday, November 27, 2011

Climbing Trees

Lately I have been too reserved in my relationship with my Father. Too preoccupied. Too busy. Too negligent. And the Spirit in all his gentleness and persistence has been nudging me.

And the urgency and frequency of the nudging has increased.

I was sitting in church almost a month ago. Dave, our minister, was talking about having a balanced life. Something caught my attention so much that I wrote it on the edge of my bulletin so I wouldn’t forget.

But I did forget. I did.

But the Spirit is persistent. When He wants you to remember, when there is something for you to glean, to learn, to store he will continually bring the concept back to the forefront until you recognize and acknowledge it.

I have been called to a relationship of abandon with the Father. A life of utter, unrestricted praise. And every time I try to be dignified, calm and sedate the Spirit shakes his head at me. He knows I don’t want to look foolish. I don’t want people to look at me and see me as a fanatic. I don’t want to be labeled.

But the Spirit is whispering. And he used a passage from Luke spoken through Dave’s mouth to remind me.

Jesus was traveling through Jericho. His reputation was moving before him like a wave undulating through the whispers of those who were inwardly hungry and wanting something more than the daily routine. People wanted to see the face of God. Jesus and his disciples, this close knit bunch, moved down that narrow highway—treacherous and dangerous. And the people heard he was coming. The heralds moved a few miles ahead of Jesus. They shouted and talked and gestured. The new prophet was coming. The man who had healed and raised people from the dead was passing by today.

Zacchaeus gleaned the tidbits of information. He was tired of the life he had been living. Tired of being a servant of the Roman rule, tired of being held in contempt by his Jewish brothers, tired of being stabbed with visual daggers, weary of the undercurrent of distrust and contempt when he came into town. He had stolen from these people and lined his own pockets with their money. Everyone recognized his name, but no one knew him. He was alone and isolated. Ostracized. He was hurting and no one knew. He was hungry and no one could hear his stomach growl.

The fervor increased the closer Jesus got. Zacchaeus knew he would never be able to get a glimpse of this man. Zacchaeus was too short. He couldn’t see over the shoulders of the crowd. If anything, Zacchaeus was pragmatic and resourceful. On the edge of the dusty road sycamore trees grew. Just a few. But the branches were strong and low.

Zacchaeus shrugged his dignity off like a dirty cloak. Left it laying on the edge in a pile. He girded his tunic and climbed the tree. He perched like a bird on the branches. He could see far down the road in either direction. And he waited.

He saw and heard everything. Inwardly he was thrilled to be high up off the ground and he was pleased with his vantage point.

The man and his group were almost to his tree. Zacchaeus leaned down just a little in order to hear the conversations as they passed. He held his breath so he could hear the slightest phrase.


He didn't expect the shout and it startled him. For a moment he lost his balanced perch in his tree. Zacchaeus swiveled around and Jesus looked at him. Looked him directly in the eye.

“Zacchaeus, you come down. I am going to your house today.” There was no asking. Just a statement of fact. And Zacchaeus couldn’t pull his eyes away. They were locked with this man—this prophet who could see right through him. All the way through. “I am going to your house today, Zacchaeus. I want to eat with you.”

Zacchaeus slid down the branches of the tree. He barely noticed the rough scrape of the bark on his thighs or the scratches on his palms.

Jesus heard Zacchaeus’ stomach growl. He recognized the loneliness. He saw the guarded pain from being shunned for so many years. How long had it been since someone had been to Zacchaeus’ house to eat? How long since someone had broken bread with Zacchaeus the tax collector? Zacchaeus couldn’t remember.

Too long.

But, because he had climbed a tree, because he had left his pride in a heap at its base, because Jesus had arrived Zacchaeus experienced salvation. He had been restored. He had been redeemed from the ugly, futile way of life he had embraced.

The Spirit has been talking to me. Through my minister he reminded me that “we need to start climbing sometimes.” *

I need to find a sycamore tree and leave my cloaks of pride and reservations in a pile on the road. I need to reach up and wrap my arms around a fat tree branch and hoist myself up—shuffle and scoot. I have been too busy. I have been too preoccupied with image and perceptions. I need to abandon it all and climb a tree simply because I want to see Jesus.

My God hears my stomach growl. He sees my struggles with those around me. He knows the hurt and pain because I can’t get the relationships right. He understands why I can’t make sense of it all. He is very aware that I falter and fail.

He knows.

And he is waiting for me to climb the tree.

*David Scalf: minister

Christ Church

Afternoon Prayer

Hear my cries this afternoon, O God, as random and jumbled as they are. 

Hear the noises of my heart that have no articulation, that have no annunciation, but just remain guttural sounds. My words trip over one another. They can’t find structure to explain the ardor coursing through me. This intensity pushes through a channel far too small for the enormity of the weight of your presence and glory.

Only you are great enough to absorb this 

Hear me, O my God. 

Oh, the glorious audacity to be able to call you mine. You are not just the Father of Abraham and Jacob.
You are not just the Lord of Peter and Paul. You are mine. 

My God. 

Hear me then. But more, let me hear you. Open and stretch the canals of my inner ear so I might hear what you are speaking to me. Talk to me and may your Spirit translate words too divine for me to comprehend.
Even at this moment the intensity overwhelms me. Do I dare to even speak it aloud?

This it is a holy unction—an anointing I don’t deserve. And yet you pour this holy lubricant on me and it seeps into who I am and transforms me.  As I inhale my nostrils flare and my eyes burn. I am in a holy place now. I haven’t moved from my seat, but I am in the midst of the sacred. I am in your presence. 

The epiphany comes not as an explosion, but as an expansion. 

Why do I forget? Why do I lose grasp of these  inevitable truths? 

I was made to praise you. I was created to worship you—to lift my hands and bend my knee. Yet I fumble with my purpose. I stagger blindly on a well-lit path. 

Pour more oil, please. 

I ask for more because there is nothing else I can do. Nothing else I truly desire. 

I need nothing else but your holy unction to cause my rusty arms to rise and my corroded knees to bend and my stiff jaw to open. 

My God. 

My beautiful, beautiful God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kissing the Frog

Through the years I have gathered phrases and used them repeatedly in my daily management of life. Some I remember with great detail who coined them and in what situation. Others I have only a faint and vague recollection of their source. And others I simply don’t remember at all, but they have become permanent along with their explanations of usage.

For years I have told my daughters, my friends, my students and myself to eat the frog. Translation: whatever is the hardest thing to do—do it first. If you have a plate of food in front of you and you hate one particular thing, eat it first. If you have a to do list, do the thing that requires the most time and effort and you want to do least. If you have a situation that must be handled, but are procrastinating—eat the frog.

I never thought there would be a time when that phrase wasn’t metaphorical for me. Last week our school had a fund raiser. Most of the teachers had a jar with a photograph of them taped to the side. Goofy images. The teachers made faces in their photographs that most likely (hopefully) they would never make in the classroom. Students could drop coins and bills in the jar and the teacher who accumulated the most money over the week (had to be a minimum of $25) either got a pie in the face or must kiss a frog. I was slotted to kiss the frog.

The money would be used to help fund the seniors and their trip in the spring. At mid-week the jars only had a few bills in them. We really didn’t think (with sighs of relief) that the goals were going to be met. I left school on Thursday knowing that I was quite a few dollars from the goal. I came back on Friday morning and was informed that I had to kiss the frog and my husband had to take the pie in the face during chapel later in the morning.

Now I had agreed to this. What had I been thinking? During the morning my thoughts centered on how I was going to manage kissing a real, live frog. My husband had seen the frog. A couple of others had seen the frog. I kept imagining this frog. Cold, slick and damp. Where was this frog coming from? Someone’s creek? Pond? Aquarium? I knew the best way I could handle this was to hold the frog in my left hand and pinch its lips together with my right. Perhaps I could do this with little to no squeamish noises and grimaces and not embarrass myself. I had to kiss the frog for a full three seconds. We can do anything for three seconds, right? My husband laughed at me.

That was my plan. I was following my house rule. I wasn’t going to eat the frog, but I was going to kiss it.

Of course the order of chapel did not allow for me to go first and get this task over. No, chapel was full that day with announcements, games and devotions. And then it was time.

A wonderful colleague of mine, the teacher in charge of the fundraiser, came to the front with a very large metal pot containing the frog. The size of the pot threw me off-balance. I was expecting a very small frog, not a bull frog that had to be put in a pot with a lid. I was scrambling in my head trying to determine what I would do. The students were howling. Cheering. Ecstatic energy filled the room because Mrs. R was actually about to kiss a frog. I swallowed hard.

I looked around to find my husband. I told him if I had to kiss a frog he had to promise to kiss me afterward. If I were going to participate in this crazy fiasco and touch my mouth to a fairy tale amphibian’s cold lips then he had to watch. My mind was scattered and the longer my friend prolonged this the more nervous my insides became.

She held the lid on that pot as if it took some effort. Was the frog jumping? She was smiling. I wasn’t sure I liked her smile. Finally, I said, “Find my husband and let’s get this done.”

We have chapel in the gym and all the classroom doors open into the gym, and the door at the back slowly opened. By this time I was so confused I wasn’t sure what was happening.

My friend looked at me and said, “Here’s your frog, now give him a kiss.”

Someone walked out of the room with a painted frog mask on, a green cape around his shoulders and wearing a frog prince t-shirt. My six foot three husband was my frog.

My friend and colleague had not been able to locate a frog and scrambling for an alternative this is what she and the rest of our staff concocted.

I bent over in laughter. The students were in an uproar—they felt cheated.

I reached up and pulled my frog prince’s face toward mine and kissed his great big green lips laughing wildly the whole time.

I looked at the pot. No frog.

Instead I had gotten to kiss my frog prince. How fitting.

I was ready to do the thing I wanted to do least that day. I had checked my list, looked at my plate and I was ready to eat the frog. I had been prepared to do the hardest thing.

Instead, I got a surprise.

My whole life has been like this. I have attempted to eat my frogs, to kiss them and get it over with and there has always been some kind of wonderful, unexpected surprise waiting for me. Always.

And in that moment, in front of the whole school and my colleagues and my incredible husband with his frog face now dangling, I realized on a new level how good our Father really is.

When we trust him, when we go to him in prayer and petition and ask for his help with the hard things, the absurd things, the unexplainable things, the painful things and the crazy things he honors our asking. The Father honors our asking and comes along side of us and helps us with a plan to kiss the frog.

He honors the asking.

Go. Kiss your frog.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Today was the deadline for the Turning 200 give-a-way. A co-worker of mine drew three winners for me!

Janette Carver

Kim Jernigan

Christy Witt

Please let me know you have seen the announcement and I will get your gift to you.

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and encouragement.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Turning 200 Deadline



November 8, 2011

Tomorrow is the last day to enter the Chambered Nautilus gift box raffle.

Just send me a quick note here or on facebook if you haven't already done so.

Can't wait to see who wins. Two prizes will be given.

New post coming.


The Thrill of Hope--Jeremiah, Part 1

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